Tony Award-winning director John Doyle helms Bertolt Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle at the American Conservatory Theatre (February 18-March 14), featuring a new translation by Domenique Lozano and original music by Nathaniel Stookey. In a war-ravaged community, a group of actors use rubble, shrapnel, and ordinary objects to reenact a parable about the fight between two women for the custody of a child. Over at the Magic Theatre, Luis Alfaro's Oedipus el Rey (through February 28) imagines modern California as the setting for Sophocles' ancient tale of a young man doomed to kill his father and marry his mother.
Berkeley Rep explores the world of the camera with Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West by Naomi Iizuka (February 26-April 11). Shifting between the 1880s and the present day, the play examines the ways in which the art of photography can obscure the authenticity of people and places. Also in the East Bay, the Diablo Theatre Company presents the musical comedy whodunit Curtains with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and a book by Rupert Holmes (February 12-28 at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek). San Francisco's Theatre Rhinoceros presents tick, tick... BOOM! (February 9-28), an autobiographical musical about a promising songwriter, about to turn thirty, as he prepares for a staged reading of the musical that he believes can finally launch his career. The show creates a rare opportunity to discover the early work of this composer: Jonathan Larson, who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize posthumously for Rent.
In The Sugar Witch by Nathan Sanders at the New Conservatory Theatre Center (February 26-April 4), a Florida family must confront their dark family history as a "sugar witch" attempts to lift an ancient curse that plagues them. The Beebo Brinker Chronicles at Brava Theater Center (February 25-March 13) is based on Ann Bannon's lesbian pulp novels of the 1950s and 60s. Written by Kate Moira Ryan and Linda S. Chapman, the play follows the adventures of former lovers Beth and Laura as they try to reunite in New York City in spite of complications from their friends.
Three Wise Monkeys Theatre Company offers the 9th Annual Bay Area One Acts Festival at the Boxcar Theatre (February 18-March 13). The festival features eleven plays, each running five to thirty minutes, split among two programs which run in repertory. In Marin, the 6th Street Playhouse stages Dirty Blonde (February 26-March 21), Claudia Shear's comedy with music about the lasting influence of actress and sex symbol Mae West on two fans who meet at her grave.
In San Jose, Tom Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll plays The Stage (February 10-March 7). Set between Prague and England, the play explores the influences of rock 'n' roll music, communism, and idealism from 1968 to 1990. On the lighter side, Foothill Music Thatre offers The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (February 19-March 7 at Foothill College's Lohman Theatre). With music and lyrics by William Finn and a book by Rachel Sheinken, this quirky musical comedy focuses on a group of oddball young students competing for a local spelling bee title while coping with the woes of adolescence.
Finally, the Youth Musical Theater Company in Berkeley stars in the popular musical Once Upon a Mattress (February 20-28), a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's "The Princess and the Pea." The show imagines a kingdom where no one may marry until Prince Dauntless is wed, and his future bride must first pass the queen's difficult test. The show features music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer, and a book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, and Barer.
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